I wrote this prayer to say in my school’s chapel service the week of the election in 2016:
Election Day Prayer by Beth Weaver-Kreider
Oh God, Creator of the Universe, Creator of stars and planets and people and nations:
Make us to be spinners of webs of prayer and webs of kindness, catching each other, wrapping each other in silken threads to keep us from falling.
Make us to be builders of bridges of peace, bridges of grace, creating firm pathways so all may walk safely over the chasms or meet in the middle.
Make us to be wanderers willing to walk in the wild places, seeking each other when distance has broken our circles.
Make us to be dreamers and planners, wishers and makers, singing songs of hope and possibility, devising a future where everyone may find a home in Love.
Gratitudes: For the amazing variety of wild things that I have never seen, but might someday. For the afternoon sun shining through the quivering leaves of the little tree in the neighbors’ lawn. For the quiet peace of a day working at my desk at home. For the people who are working for justice. For all the ways in which my beloveds keep me grounded.
Gratitude List: 1. Crisp morning 2. Looking forward to family Zoom today 3. Ten deep breaths of outside air enliven me 4. Greeting the Beings of this place grounds me 5. Rain brings more greens
May we walk in Beauty!
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” —Rumi
“Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” —Simone Weil
“You can never leave footprints that last if you are always walking on tiptoe.” —Leymah Gbowee
“God speaks to each of us as [she] makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night. These are the words we dimly hear: You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing. Embody me.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
“I do not see a delegation of the four-footed. I see no seat for the eagles.” —Chief Oren Lyons, Onondaga
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” —Kurt Vonnegut
“I told them we’re tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known by what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff—biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice—but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.” ―Rachel Held Evans
Go deeper. Past thoughts into silence. Past silence into stillness. Past stillness into the heart. Let love consume all that is left of you. —Kabir
MESSAGES TO SELF: Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in sunshine. Breathe in the fluttering of bird wings in sunlight. Breathe out worry and anxiety and grief. Breathe in the solidity of trees. Breathe in the stalwart courage of oak and locust and sycamore. Breathe out worry and anxiety and grief. (They will still be there for you to examine and explore. For now, let them go.) Breathe in and raise your head. Drop your shoulders. Stand or sit up straighter. Breathe the worry and sadness out the soles of your feet, into Earth. She can hold them for you. Breathe in love and compassion. Breathe out gratitude. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Today at some point, put you bare feet on Earth. Put your fingertips in water. Place your hands oh so tenderly on the bark of a tree. And breathe.
Gratitude List: It feels like these lists are all beginning to repeat, as I sit at the same window every morning to write these lists, and my days look the same. 1. Bird life in the holler. One goldfinch is now fully suited up for summer. Phoebe is speaking its name into the cool morning. The sun turns that red cap on the downy woodpecker to fire. 2. The trees that surround me. 3. The waters that run through the hollow on their way to the River. 4. A lighter day today. The assignments are a little lighter today, and I am going to grade speeches. Enough. Enough. I have done enough. 5. Finding joys and wonders and delights to balance the sadness and anxiety.
Take Care of Yourself. Take Care of Each Other.
“What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.” —Alain de Botton
“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.” —Joanna Macy
“We should have respect for animals because it makes better human beings of us all.” —Jane Goodall
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray.” —Rumi
“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” —Harriet Tubman
“The little grassroots people can change this world.” —Wangari Maathai
“Some form of the prayer of quiet is necessary to touch me at the unconscious level, the level where deep and lasting transformation occurs. From my place of prayer, I am able to understand more clearly what is mine to do and have the courage to do it. Unitive consciousness—the awareness that we are all one in Love—lays a solid foundation for social critique and acts of justice.” —Richard Rohr
“You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” —Anonymous
As I walk today’s fifth passage into the dark labyrinth tunnel of December, I can’t help but contemplate the cobwebs. In my physical house, the spiders have moved in from garage and attic to the house proper, seeking warmth and light and fresh insects. (Some of that is on my list winter comforts, too, though not the third.) I do take down the webs when the spiders become too assertive with their territory-claims, but mostly I live and let spin. They’ve learned to eat the stink bugs in the past five years or so, so I can’t begrudge them too much real estate.
And the web is my primary symbol of prayer. For being such a universal activity in so many religious (and even nonreligious) traditions, prayer remains nearly undefinable. What we do when we pray varies by person and situation. While I can speak a prayer in words, and I love poetic communal prayer, as an individual and contemplative activity, prayer for me has been more of a visualization or meditation, more like a raising of energy, than a direct invocation.
For thoughts on prayer, I tend to turn to the poets rather than the theologians, though when the theologians speak poetically, I am more likely to trust them. I like Mary Oliver’s perspective in “The Summer Day”:
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done?”
“To pray you open your whole self To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon To one whole voice that is you.”
When I pray, I feel myself on the web, feel you on the web, feel the love, the intention for healing, for restoration. It’s not a physical feeling, perhaps, but usually the metaphor is realer than words for me, and I sense the thrum and tug of the energy between us humming like. . .well, like a prayer.
Today, here in this metaphorical passageway, with cobwebs above our heads, and the watchful spiders around us, let’s practice working with that web of prayer. Consider some situation for which you long to see healing and rightness return. On a breath, send out a line of spidersilk on the breeze toward that spot in the field of existence. Be the spider, surfing the electrical currents in the air, tugging the strand taut between you the the story you pray for. Feel the hum of energy and breathe your own healing intention along that line. I will listen for you on this web of which we all are part, and wait to feel your energy.
Envisioning: (On Sunday, Michelle asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)
Yesterday, someone sent me a link to a story of three young men who noticed an elderly woman sitting alone at a restaurant. Something prompted one of them to go and ask if he could sit with her. He asked her about her life, and she told him that she was a widow, approaching what would have been her 60th wedding anniversary. He asked her to join him and his friends at their table, and they had a transformative encounter that enriched them all. They were separated by gender and age and race, and yet they met with open hearts, and a tender and holy connection was made.
Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.
In these chill mornings, while we are waiting in the warm car in the dawn for our carpool companion to come out to the car, I watch how the light rises through the trees in her hollow, how the branches cross and tangle, creating loops and circles and triangles and the shapes of eyes. I am a fan of Zentangles, and I find that lately I am am obsessed with putting lines on the page, crossing and intersecting much as the branches intertwine, as though my mind might float away into the grey winter sky were I not to catch it in a tangle of lines on paper.
While I do sometimes use prayer to describe that place I go when I am consciously opening a space within me to communicate with the Great Mystery, I more often find myself thinking in terms of placing myself deliberately on the web of being, of holding my beloveds in the web of energy generated by Love. The dawn trees, the lines on a page, the webs of prayer: I am held, anchored at least momentarily in time and space. So, tangle will be my word for today, a tangle that holds and anchors and communicates along its seemingly random lines.
Gratitude List: 1. Tangles and webs 2. Trees and dawn 3. Stories that nourish my spirit 4. Planning 5. How meaning comes into being
May we walk in Beauty!
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” ― Walt Whitman
I Looked Up
by Mary Oliver
I looked up and there it was
among the green branches of the pitch pines—
a ruffle of fire trailing over the shoulders and down the back—
color of copper, iron, bronze—
lighting up the dark branches of the pine.
What misery to be afraid of death.
What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.
When I made a little sound
it looked at me, then it looked past me.
Then it rose, the wings enormous and opulent,
and, as I said, wreathed in fire.
At the Beginning of Winter
by Tom Hennen
In the shallows of the river
After one o’clock in the afternoon
An eighth of an inch thick.
Night never disappears completely
But moves among the shadows
On the bank
Like a glimpse of fur.
Flies and spiderwebs
Appear alone in the flat air.
The naked aspens stand like children
Waiting to be baptized
And the goldenrod too is stripped down
To its bare stalk
In the cold
Even my thoughts
Have lost their foliage.
“Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”
― Joseph Campbell
Breath flows in, breath flows out,
Traveling always the curving path of the Goddess.
Breath flows spontaneously of its own will.
Thus all breathing beings
Continually give reverence to Her.
Be conscious of this unconscious prayer,
For She is the most holy place of pilgrimage.
She wishes for you to enter this temple,
Where each breath is adoration
Of the infinite for the incarnate form.
Into this body
As a nectar of the gods.
Every breath is a whisper
Of the Goddess:
“Here is the ritual I ask of you —
Be the cup
Into which I pour this bliss,
The elixir of immortal peace.”
Gratitude of Resistance Sixteen: Reweaving the threads of friendship and memory with my Beloveds. We need to keep our Beloveds close in these times, and what can fight the tides of hate and intolerance and despair more effectively than eye contact across a table, sharing food, creating ideas and dreams together? Make each moment with those you love and trust a moment of prayer in action, a grand magic spell, a wishing bird of hope–that all may come and go in peace, that no one shall be forced away from the table, that a better way of living together in this world will be possible.
“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” ―Dorothy Day
“I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.” ―Dorothy Day
“Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.”
“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
“The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”
I’m not very good at praying, but what I experience when I’m writing a poem is close to prayer. I feel it in different degrees and not with every poem. But in certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” ―Denise Levertov
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”
“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” ―attributed to Albert Einstein
Look into me, for I am the light in your eyes. ―Rumi
“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”
“When it comes down to it, even on the natural plane, it is much happier and more enlivening to love than to be loved.”
“Paperwork, cleaning the house, dealing with the innumerable visitors who come all through the day, answering the phone, keeping patience and acting intelligently, which is to find some meaning in all that happens–these things, too, are the works of peace.”
“An act of love, a voluntary taking on oneself of some of the pain of the world, increases the courage and love and hope of all.” ―Dorothy Day
Gratitude List: 1. I hear: My family members singing and humming and whispering to themselves as they go about the work and play of the evening.
2. I see: Incredible photos that my friends post online. Such beauty there is in the world, and such tender eyes my friends have to notice and mark it.
3. I feel: The perfect temperatures of this week. A little cool, a little warm. Thermal delight.
4. I smelled: Coffee brewing.
5. I tasted: Broccoli on toast with melted cheese. And applesauce. Delicious supper.
Today is International Day of Peace.
Last year on this day, I wrote about being the Medicine for the Moment. This year’s stories are hauntingly the same, although the names and places have changed. The response of the powerful and disconnected to the tragedies around us remains as simplistic and crass as ever.
“Where is the medicine for this moment?
These are crass and ironic times, when the tragedies of millions of lives, of people fleeing their homes in terror, are reduced to a simplistic candy analogy. Where is the medicine?
When day after day after horrific day, another black man lies dead in the streets, the evidence of his murder caught on camera, and no one is brought to justice. Where is the medicine?
When the nations of people who first lived upon this land call for a halt to the destruction of the land and water, and the response is to bulldoze the graves of their ancestors. Where is the medicine?
The tides of hate and selfishness and division have risen, and those who See must come together in these times to pray, to hold council, to stand against all that tears at the fabric of our common humanity. When history looks back at us, let it not be said that we sat quietly by while our sisters and brothers were subjected to hate and horror and terror.
Today is the International Day of Peace. What will be your prayer for peace today? How will you put hands and feet on your prayer? What medicine will you be for this moment?”
“The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails.” –Merlin (T. H. White)
“Attention is the beginning of devotion.” –Mary Oliver
“Be silent, or say something better than silence.”
“Don’t you see? Violence doesn’t end violence. It extends it.” –The Doctor (Eleven)
Gratitude List: 1. Savannah’s Peace Day Chapel presentation this morning–a student leading us to consider how we can learn to listen to each other even when we don’t agree, encouraging us to keep doing the small everyday things that make a difference in people’s lives.
2. That was coyotes I heard howling up on the hill! Coyotes! We’ve seen them several times over the years, but we’ve never heard them sing in the hollow before. What a haunting and evocative music. (I’m also glad that the cats are indoor people.)
3. Tomorrow is Friday. I am eager to find my way into the weekend. Also, Friday means Hymn Sing.
4. Salmon patties, green beans, and a chichen itza pepper.
5. All the people, everywhere, who work for peace in the world, who expand the boundaries of loving, who open their hearts.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
– e. e. cummings
“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” –Frederick Douglass
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”
with a love like that —
It lights the whole
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
~ Mother Teresa
Gratitude List: 1. Re-arranging. We have a storage and clutter problem, but this weekend, we’ve been sorting and shifting, finding places for things, getting the right pieces of furniture for the right jobs.
2. The red berries on the dogwood trees
3. Hints of yellow and red in the leaves
5. Warm socks